I love kid-free time. That might seem mean and selfish, but since I am the wind beneath the wings of many people who depend on me for food, clean clothes, help with homework, encouragement, rides to dance, spending money, dryer lint (don’t ask), and emotional support, two hours at night that don’t involve kids or thinking about kids helps me sleep better. It also keeps me from absconding with the mortgage money and heading south to live an anonymous life as a chain-smoking, hard living truck stop waitress. (My fantasy career choices are limited due to my lack of education. Stay in school, kids.)
My husband and I have an evening ritual. Every night after we’ve eaten, cleaned up, walked dogs, made sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be (like not abandoned at the dance studio) and said our appropriate good-nights, we get our beers and turn on Top Gear. No girl under the age of thirty would be remotely interested in a show where middle aged men and British celebrities talk about cars, so the room clears out pretty quick. It’s two hours of quiet bliss, save for the dogs, who make horrible snuffling noises as they chew on their own asses and whine to go outside so they can loudly terrorize raccoons.
The quiet is good, but it’s also nice to spend time alone together as a couple. It’s healthy to prioritize our marriage. It’s also healthy to prioritize my mental health; I worry a lot about the kids. With one daughter figuring out the whole single mom thing, another ten hours away at the University of Tennessee, and then the two younger ones still at home, it takes a concerted effort for me to not be grimacing and chewing my cuticles 24/7. I need that two hours every night before I go to sleep to just zone out and not think about anything.
My husband is normally very sensitive and tries to be supportive when I worry. Last night I was on the phone with our college daughter, who was not having the greatest day. He came and sat down beside me on the kitchen floor and handed me a beer and just sat quietly with me until the conversation was over. He does things like that. Sometimes he forgets, however, that he’s married to an anxiety ridden hot mess.
Last weekend, I was gone for just a hair over twenty four hours taking our daughter to a dance workshop in Lynchburg, Virginia. My husband and I missed each other terribly, because you know, twenty four hours is a really long time. (That’s sarcasm. We do seven and eight month deployments standing on our heads, but I digress…) We enjoyed some quality “alone time”, then lay in bed talking as we tried to drift off the sleep. This is normally when most people, my husband included, would say something sweet or romantic. Instead, he snuggled in a little closer and whispered every so quietly in my ear, “Ione told me it’s starting to get really cold in Tennessee and she doesn’t have a heavy winter coat yet.” My eyes bolted open and any relaxed, pleasant feelings I had flew out the window. He could have told me that a dozen rabid squirrels were nesting in our roof and I wouldn’t have boggled more, but instead of killing him, I quietly whispered back, “Please don’t talk to me about things like that when I’m trying to go to sleep.” “Oh, ” he said, “Ok.”
My therapist would be proud. I didn’t let anxiety keep me awake. I know my husband loves me and likes to keep me filled in on all the things, even if his timing is a little off sometimes. I know that Ione will have a coat, of course. For some reason, though, I can’t get the song “After The Lovin’” by Englebert Humperdink off my mind…